The intervention of the Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN) in association with stakeholders towards rice production in the country is yielding results as JOHN OBA writes.
It is targeting 18 million metric tons of rice by the year 2023. According to reports, the current country’s local rice production has now reached 15 million metric tons annually, a huge achievement from the paltry tons being produced in the previous administrations. This, according to the Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria, (RIFAN) means that the country now saves about N300 billion it used to spend annually on the importation of the commodity in previous years.
Harnessing the support of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Anchor Borrowers Programme, the rice farmers have been able to turn-around the once-heavily imported commodity into such that would soon become export-oriented. However, the question agitating the mind of the people is how this transformation suddenly came about in a nation that was once the highest importer of rice in the world.
The next level revolution
Blueprint gathered that since the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari declared its intention to ensure that the country is self-sufficient in rice production, all efforts towards attaining this goal has been going on and the impacts of RIFAN has really been significant in that wise.
Its national president, Alhaji Aminu Goronyo, on several occasions emphasised the association’s resolve to ensure that rice production is taken to the next level. To that extent, the drive to change that narrative was set in motion.
According to him, “The agenda, tagged: ‘Next Level’ was as a result of various interventions of the current administration and innovative policies on rice production which facilitated RIFAN’s operations and led to its remarkable improvements.”
He noted that under the ‘next level’, RIFAN would harness the huge potential of producing rice in commercial quantity and make the country the rice hub of Africa.
He gave assurance that the association would reverse the current price of N18, 000 per 50 kg of rice to between N8,000 and N9,000 in order to ensure that the country captures the export market in Africa.
As the efforts to increase rice production in the country intensifies, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rice Outlook forecast last year predicted that Nigeria’s rice imports would increase from 13% this year to 3.4 million metric tons, making it the world’s biggest rice importer after China.
“China and Nigeria are projected to remain the largest rice importing countries in 2019 followed by the EU, Cote d’Ivoire, and Iran,” USDA said.
“Nigeria and Egypt are projected to account for the bulk of the 2019 import increase.”
Some rice farmers in the country had reported a drop in output since last year, a development brought about by a combination of higher input costs, insecurity and widespread flooding in the main growing regions of the country.
The global production of rice as at 2018 exceeds consumption by 2.3 million tons, according to USDA, with 2018-19 ‘global ending stocks’ projected to reach 163 million tons, 17.8 million tons more than previously forecast.
Despite some challenges enumerated above, rice farmers in the country say they are working to change the narrative. The association therefore came out with the implementation and facilitation of the Out-grower Scheme to help offer improved control over supply.
According to Goronyo, RIFAN registered over 12.2 million members across the 36 states of the country and the FCT with a target of 2.5 million committed farmers by the end 2019 and has 148 officials across the country at the national, states, local government and ward levels and has successfully implemented the Anchor Borrowers Programme across the country in conjunction with the CBN.
The association said the scheme is an attractive option for it to explore local market opportunities. “RIFAN has a robust out-growers’ programme, with out-growers located around 50km radius from factories in the different states around the country.”
The scheme is assisting rice farmers in several areas to help ensure that the farmers’ targets are hit. Some of these moves include tractorisation, that is RIFAN has a team dedicated to give support to the farmers in terms of land preparations by offering them tractors for ploughing.
It is assisting the farmers in the scheme to get inputs such as chemicals (both systemic and contact herbicide), fertiliser, and stem cuttings. It is also linking the farmers to banks in order to access loan to maintain their farms. This service is only provided to trusted and committed farmers while also funding a robust extension team that works round the clock to supervise the farms, provide consultancy services and trainings as the need arises and also monitor their farms.
Findings also show that there is an unbroken trust existing between RIFAN and her out-growers’ farmers. This has been developed over the years and has attracted many farmers to join in the largesse of the scheme as the farmers are carried along before major decisions are carried out. Also, most of the policies of RIFAN encourage a bottom-top approach. Besides that, it is also investing at establishing macro-micro banks to assist farmers.